Breast Cancer Myth Busters

As we near the end of breast cancer awareness month we all long the day when breast cancer will be a disease that does not exist anymore. According to recent online article, there are women who have some misconceptions concerning breast cancer. One of the number myths is that having a family history of breast cancer means that you will get breast cancer. This is not necessarily true. While women who have a family history of breast cancer are in a higher risk group, the fact is; most women who have breast cancer have no prior family history. If you have a mother, daughter, sister, or grandmother who had breast cancer you should have a mammogram starting five years before their diagnosis, or at age 35. Close to 70% of women who were diagnosed with breast cancer do not have identifiable risk factors for disease. Another prevalent myth is that performing breast self exam will not make a difference. Close to 70% of all breast cancers are discovered through self exam. Early detection is key. Performing the examination close to the same time each month is helpful and more accurate. If you have an average risk of breast cancer it is a mistake to believe the myth that there is nothing you can do about your risk. The truth is there are many risk factors for breast cancer that are within your control. One such risk factor is your weight. Controlling your weight especially after menopause is a key factor in reducing your risk of breast cancer. Excess fat tissue after menopause will increase your risks of getting breast cancer, because it raises your estrogen levels. Not getting enough physical activity will also increase the risk of developing breast cancer. Many studies have shown that even moderate exercise will reduce the risk of breast cancer. Even walking consistently for 75 to 250 min. per week reduces the risk of breast cancer by as much as 18%. Limiting alcohol consumption will also help to reduce the risk of breast cancer. Women who do not drink have a 10 to 12% lower risk of breast cancer when compared with women who do drink. Excessive alcohol use is known to contribute to a multitude of cancers. The American Cancer Society recommends having no more than one drink a day(if at all). Another commonly held myth is that monthly breast self exams are the best way to find breast cancer early. This is not entirely true because women should have an awareness of their breast at all times. This means being familiar with the size shape and feel of your breast. Also, mammograms are able to detect cancers that cannot be felt. Many women believe that lumps are the only sign of breast cancer. This also is not true. Skin irritation, dimpling, nipple pain, having a nipple become inverted, redness or scaliness of the nipple, or discharge other than breast milk could all be warning signs of breast cancer. The key is to not ignore changes, or assume that there a result of an infection. Early detection is the key to successful treatment and survival. Dr. Seify advises patients, who are having cosmetic breast procedures including breast augmentation with implants, breast reduction, and breast lift to be proactive concerning their breast health and be sure to perform monthly breast self-exam and follow the recommendation of their primary care provider regarding mammogram recommendations. It is important for patients to remember that breast surgery does not change the recommendation of the proper time for breast cancer screening.

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